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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Met-a Culpa

There are dumb quotes…

“Three-and-a-half-game lead and all, the key numbers are these: six games left against Atlanta and 42 against everybody else. The Mets are advised to kick the ever-lovin' spit out of everybody else in those other 42 in order to secure their second consecutive Eastern Division title and another shot at the belt because I have no confidence, none, that they'll handle the Braves in the other six. Not after four series comprised of one win and two losses every time. I thought we buried this bullshit last year. Apparently we have not.”

—Me, August 9, in a Willie Harris-inspired snit

…and there are smart quotes:

“I've run out of things to say. We're not as good as them. They've won every game against us they had to win. That's why they're where they are. We have to find a way to win these close games, and I am talking about next year as well as the next couple of weeks.”

—John Smoltz, September 12, in a Met-inspired snit

Always use smart quotes.

Yeah, I would say I was pretty wrong about these Mets and their ability to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again following the fourth consecutive Braves series that they lost 2-1. I think I was in that Randy Quaid Major League II (not the good one) mode, where he plays the superloyal Indian fan who drowns out all mounting Tribe criticism with supportive, rationalizing blather until he finally reaches his breaking point and completely turns on his team. I didn't see 2007's Met-Brave dynamic as any more than a faint echo of its Coxian worst until Harris leapt and stole Delgado's ninth-inning, game-tying homer five long weeks ago and unleashed some seething demons of distress. Then and only then was I willing to give in to that old chestnut that we'll never beat the Braves when it counts, woe is us and that whole pile of self-pitying shaving cream Mets fans occasionally like to leap into.

Met-a culpa. I take it back. I take it back with a grin that reaches from here high atop the National League East to however far out Smoltz and his teammates sit and stew in the doughy middle of this division. I don't ever like to statistically dismiss any opponent who has enough games left with us to uncomfortably close a gap on us. The Braves have no games left with us. They're 9-1/2 back, primarily a function of their losing five of the six head-to-head chances they had to gain on us since August 31. I do believe I've washed the shaving cream off my face and my hands of them for another season.

Floss will take care of that delicious plate of crow I just enjoyed.

As we gloat, the Phillies are seven behind the Mets, which isn't just formidable, it's a hoot. Remember that when the Mets were going through one of their modestly competent stretches in their summer of stumbling around, they managed to boost their first-place margin to a surprising seven on August 25. It was almost too soon for this recurrently beleaguered cast of characters to pull away. Indeed, they lost the next night to David Wells and then hit the Turnpike for four more defeats.

Since then? A nicely done 10-2. The Phillies? Who cares? We're seven games in front, for the love of Pete Incaviglia. That means that even by sweeping us four — three of them with the force of a red-hot poker — the Philadelphians have picked up no ground on us. None! While we were ten-and-twoing, they've been five-and-sevening. What a waste of evil.

They have one left with the thunderous Rockies today and then come here for three. I like to run the worst-case scenarios before every series. Phillies win today and then find their inner pokers and brooms, they will sit 3-1/2 back with two weeks to go. That's a pretty unlikely worst-case scenario, but even if it were to come to pass, there would still be the matter of those 3-1/2.

I won't rest until we're not swept this weekend — and maybe with one eye open then — but we're in pretty good shape, according to the Metropolitan Department of Understatement.

Y'know what's been particularly gratifying about the recent spurt of quality New York Mets baseball? The way it's been achieved. The last four victories have been posted by scores of 3-1, 4-1, 3-2 and 4-3. It's just been so gosh darn sturdy, a bullpen hiccup here or LOB there notwithstanding. The starting's been solid. The defense, except for the occasional pop fly to deep short/shallow center, has been airtight. There have been just enough big hits to make these wins seem a lot wider than they appear. Nothing wrong with a sprawling victory (unless you're Keith Hernandez), but these have been so…pleasant to watch.

Beltran Wednesday night in the eighth was a gunning, running clinic along the basepaths. He probably won't receive more than a token MVP point or two, but — due respect to the vitaminwater Kid — Carlos is by his presence the most valuable Met at any given moment. When he does his Beltran best, we win. Shawn Green (L'Shawn-ah Tovah!) is treating September like it followed on the heels of May, like his dreadful post-foot problems didn't happen or at least healed; I do think a little competition for playing time did his soul good. Marlon Anderson is the best second-half spot player this team has picked up since, geez, maybe ever. Alou…Milledge…the revitalized Reyes…the undeniable David…everybody's been doing something helpful at least every couple of days. I'm almost willing to give Mota a pass because he battled Francoeur so gamely, but mostly I'm willing to give Mota a pass to sit in the stands come October.

At Shea. Where else, barring horrific circumstances even I'm having a hard time imagining, would the N.L. East champ be playing its home playoff games?

14 comments to Met-a Culpa

  • Anonymous

    Pete Incaviglia!!! I loved him!!! I was sitting right behind/above him in the outfield at the Vet when the fly ball conked him on the head. I think it was '96. (Greg?)
    Agreed on Car-los Bel-tran!!! Car-los Bel-tran!!! And I'm scared bleepless about this weekend, although the attendance of my beautiful, Met-loving niece Jordan on Sunday will do nicely to heal any resultant pain.

  • Anonymous

    Hold up, partner! There's a good Major League?

  • Anonymous

    Ah, poor John Smoltz, he with no brain for anything but pitching. Well, I'll bet that unlike at the Ted (YAAA-AAAA-AAAAWN), there won't be a single empty seat at Shea for first-round playoff games, and Shea has more space to fill.
    Oops, I said the “P” word, didn't I? Yeah, I did. Our manager's not (quite) as stupidly stubborn as Gene Mauch, and a lot less hotheaded and arm-abusive, so I think I can safely utter it.
    And like you, Greg, I'm glad they have a lot more sangfroid about the whole thing than I do. What some (maybe even me) interpreted as dispassionate, businesslike behavior after the Philly sweep turned out to be a big fat dose of, “It's ONE series, albeit a mightily sucky one against our closest rivals, and we're not jumping out the frigging window over it. YOU can, but WE won't.” And good for them.

  • Anonymous

    Y'know what's been particularly gratifying about the recent spurt of quality New York Mets baseball? The way it's been achieved. The last four victories have been posted by scores of 3-1, 4-1, 3-2 and 4-3. It's just been so gosh darn sturdy, a bullpen hiccup here or LOB there notwithstanding. The starting's been solid. The defense, except for the occasional pop fly to deep short/shallow center, has been airtight. There have been just enough big hits to make these wins seem a lot wider than they appear. Nothing wrong with a sprawling victory (unless you're Keith Hernandez), but these have been so…pleasant to watch.

    You've just described the textbook example of playoff baseball…

  • Anonymous

    Except for those taut 16-inning, 7-6 affairs…or the crisp 15-inning contests that are settled in the rain…or the 10-9 games that go 11…

  • Anonymous

    Major League, while not good in the sense that it's a good movie, is awesome after you've watched it 10 or 20 times. Definitely a sum-of-its-parts experience.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, there is a good Major League.
    It's called “Slap Shot,” from which “Major League” ripped off every single significant plot point.
    Don't even get me started.

  • Anonymous

    Schoenweis should be the LOOGY.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, Slap Shot fucking rules. Finally saw that like two years ago, and wondered what in hell had taken me so long.

  • Anonymous

    I can't believe I am defending the guy, but he has been less bad lately, and a lot of the really bad sucking he has done has been in futile pursuit of his fourth or fifth or sixth out. Stick to a batter here, a batter there, and he's as serviceable as Mota or Sele, and throws from the left side, which they don't.
    Playoff series feature see-sawing 14-inning or 15-inning monster games a little too often to risk going with nine or even ten pitchers; Willie ought to, and probably will, go with 11. And Schoenweiss is pretty likely to be one of them.
    Worth noting: Of the plausible first-round opponents, all except the Cubs have, as a team, hit lefties considerably better than righties this year. Milwaukee and San Diego positively feast on lefties.

  • Anonymous

    Can't resist the easy toldjaso. Me on August 10th, while Greg had briefly turned into a surrender monkey:
    “See, the thing is, we never properly BEAT the Braves. Sure, last year we were awesome and they sucked, but that was kind of a given from the first month. There was no appropriate drama to our ascent. They just abdicated the throne and we took power.
    But you don't beat Dracula by hoping he moves out of the castle. So what I think this is — this return to old-school they've-got-our-number Chipper-Jones-must-die TV-punching hatred — is our first real chance. We're good this year, and the Braves are good too. We've got a real pennant race, just like the old days, only better because we're winning.
    Meanwhile they're kicking our asses every time we meet. But this series — horrible, regrettable nightmare that it was — felt different, didn't it? There was life in us. Sort of. I think. The last two, at least, were truly terrific baseball games.
    I'm just really looking forward to taking on this team I once again dread with a playoff berth on the line. I just want us to demolish the hopes and the hubris of this club that's clearly relishing the insurgent's role. They wear the underdog's clothes with such off-handed, mugging irony… they think they'll be back in charge in no time, so they'll play the adorable David to our lumbering Goliath until then. They're feeling big, and when we let the air out of their sails (which I am irrationally convinced we will do) they're going to come crashing down hard.
    I want blood. I want the blood we were deprived of last year. The Braves aren't done with us, and I'm glad — we're not done with those assholes yet either.”

  • Anonymous

    Accuracy, if not immodesty, becomes you.

  • Anonymous

    If you subscribe to my orthodoxy of baseball superstition (or a similar one, as is likely for Met fans) you consider those words of pessimism to be a charm against their actual fulfillment.
    Conversely, if you had actually predicted “hey, we're gonna take five of the our last six from the Braves,” we would've be swept six straight.

  • Anonymous

    Funny how that works, especially hypothetically (but who the hell wants to find out about the swept six straight part?).